Category Archives: school

Closing a Chapter … graduation

I am in Chicago for my graduation from Catholic Theological Union. The ceremony is this evening. I am looking forward to celebrating with classmates, faculty,  family, and friends.

The last time I donned a graduation cap and gown, believe it or not, was almost 21 years ago. Now I get to add a velvet trimmed hood to the ensemble as I become the last Francois child in my generation to earn a Masters degree.  Coincidentally,  my nephew Conor already beat me to it so the next generation is on their way.

This morning I took one of my favorite Chicago walks by Lake Michigan.  It is always nice to return to favorite places, especially ones that have become sacred spaces of memory, thought, and prayer.

image

The Chicago grad school chapter of my life is officially coming to a close. The leadership chapter of my life has already begun. And it is all part of a whole,  weaving together threads of learning and practice, mission and ministry,  trial and error, love and justice seeking, contemplation and action.

My time at CTU has been filled with many blessings.  I have come to know my own Catholic tradition more deeply. I have grown in my identity as a Catholic Sister and in confidence as one seeks to share her gifts in following Jesus.

Sitting looking out at the wide expanse of Lake Michigan, I am filled with wonder, awe, and gratitude. God is good my friends. God is good.

No Longer Strangers … a Scripture reflection

ephesiansI was invited to give a reflection on Ephesians 2:12-22 today at an all school mid-day prayer service held in our chapel at Catholic Theological Union.  It was a wonderful opportunity to ponder the word of God in the context of our community. Here’s what I shared:

As a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace, I was delighted when I was invited to offer a short reflection on this reading from Ephesians, in which the theme of peace is so strong.

“For he is our peace … He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.”

I can’t help but hear echoes of my religious community’s Constitutions, where we say:

“Christ is our peace, the source of our power. United with him we engage in the struggle against the reality of evil and continue the work of establishing God’s reign of justice and peace.”

Christ is our peace, calling us to unity. But if we look around, so much divides us. Dividing walls abound, some of them quite literal like the ones we build on our borders.

Christ is our peace, but WE must make that peace known in our world. In the words of Paul VI who was beatified in Rome just this past weekend: “If you want peace, work for justice.”

As I have been sitting with this reading these past few days, I have been struck by another line from Ephesians:

“So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners…”

In 2003, the Bishops of the United States and Mexico crossed the dividing wall between our nations, united as one Church, to reflect on the reality of immigration and the need for immigration justice.

They called their joint pastoral letter: “Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope.”

In the letter, the Bishops reflect on themes of migration and hospitality in Scripture:

  • From Abraham and Sarah offering hospitality to three strangers, who were actually a manifestation of God
  • To the edict to welcome the stranger, remembering Israel’s own exile in Egypt
  • To the Holy Family’s own flight into Egypt
  • To the reading we have today, of which the Bishops say:
    “The triumph of grace in the Resurrection of Christ plants hope in the hearts of all believers and the Spirit works in the Church to unite all peoples of all races and cultures into the one family of God.”

Just look around our community here at CTU. Our students come from places that are far and places that are near.  We come from places of relative peace and prosperity and places that have experienced deep division and heart wrenching violence.

We come to learn to be unifiers, reconcilers, bearers of mercy and builders of peace.

CTU is now even a place of hospitality, welcoming immigrant women and families in the Marie Joseph House of Hospitality across the street.

We have also been invited to participate in a practical work of mercy this week through a winter clothing drive for our immigrant brothers and sisters.

As the CTU community, we are no longer strangers and sojourners, but fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God.

May we be reconcilers in our families and communities.

May we welcome the stranger and work for justice.

May we seek, build, live, and bring peace.

Amen.

Bernardin’s Consistent Ethic of Life applied to Human Trafficking

Cardinal Bernardin
Cardinal Bernardin

I have had the amazing opportunity these past 2+ years to study at Catholic Theological Union as a Bernardin Scholar. This has given me an opportunity–and responsibility–to learn more about Cardinal Joseph Bernardin and the great contributions he made to our church and Catholic social thought.  Perhaps his greatest and most far reaching contribution was his development of the Consistent Ethic of Life.

I am presently beginning work writing my masters thesis on human trafficking as social sin. One aspect of the trafficking experience is the commodification and dehumanization of the trafficked person. As I was writing the section on dehmanization, I thought I would look at what Cardinal Bernardin wrote about human dignity and see if I could weave it in. I vaguely remembered reading something he wrote which would apply, and happily just found it.

It’s an address he gave in 1984 to the National Consultation on Obscenity, Pornography, and Indecency. Here’s just a bit:

The theological foundation of our opposition to obscenity, pornography, and indecency is the dignity of the human person. …

It is clearly simply inadequate simply to say that human life is sacred and to explain why this is so. It is also necessary to examine and respond to the challenges to the unique dignity and sacredness of human life today. Human life has always been sacred, and there have always been threats to it. However, we live in a period of history when we have produced, sometimes with the best of intentions, a technology and a capacity to threaten and diminish human life which previous generations could not even imagine.

In the first instance, there are life-threatening issues such as genetics, abortion, capital punishment, modern warfare, and euthenasia. These assaults on life cannot be collapsed into one problem; they are all distinct, enormously complicated, and deserving of individual treatment. ….

That is why I have argued frequently during the past year for the need of developing a ‘consistent ethic of life’ that seeks to build a bridge of common interest and common insight on a range of social and moral questions. Successful resolution on any of these issues is dependent upon the broader attitude within society regarding overall respect for life. …

In the second instance, there are life-diminishing issues, such as prostitution, pornography, sexism, and racism. Again, each is a distinct problem, enormously complex, worthy of individual attention and action. Nonetheless, understanding that they all contribute in some way to a diminishment of human dignity provides a theological foundation for more specific reflection and concrete action.

Keep in mind, he wrote these words in 1984. Decades before human trafficking became a public policy issue on the national and international stage.  However, it is not really a stretch to expand his observations about the dehumanizing effects of prostitution and pornography—which can be considered trafficking when force, fraud, or coercion is involved—to other forms of human trafficking, such as forced labor, where the creative capacities of the human person are exploited for profit and ill-gotten gain.

Ultimately, Bernardin’s consistent ethic of life helps us focus our attention on the human part of human trafficking. When we realize that what is at stake is the inherent human dignity of persons deserving respect, hopefully we are spurred to “more specific reflection and concrete action.”

Pray for us, Cardinal Bernardin.